Local fitness companies are hoping to come to terms with the City of Trail after their outdoor workouts were shut down.
In an effort to keep their clients engaged and fit, Elevate Fitness and other groups began outdoor workouts for a maximum 10 people at Gyro, Pople and Haley Parks.
Yet, Elevate co-owners Andrew van der Ham and Dallas Calvin were surprised when the City of Trail sent a May 12 email advising them to stop their activities given current COVID-19 protocols.
“We are incredibly disheartened to have received this email from staff this week on the prohibition of outdoor fitness activities in any of the City of Trail’s parks,” wrote van der Ham in a letter to the city. “We have been trying extremely hard to navigate COVID with rules seeming to change every month.”
Trail Parks and Recreation Director Trisha Davison explained to the Trail Times that the parks are the property of the city and currently no organized sport or activity is allowed to congregate in city parks, as spelled out by the provincial COVID restrictions.
“We have specifics to COVID 19, there’s safety plans that the city has in place for various parks and use of outdoor space, as we would for any indoor space as well,” said Davison. “So the venues that were seemingly the choice, drew concerns. Which was the fact (given) there was organized activity happening at Gyro Park, which by our safety plans, are prohibited due to the number of amenities at the park that already attract a lot of people.
“We don’t allow any formalized activity to occur at that park at this time.”
Davison also pointed out there is a process that businesses and organizations are required to follow when looking to access city facilities and parks.
Normally parks are booked for events for the day and the city charges a commercial rate of $254, which is the only fee structure they have.
“We don’t actually even have a fee structure that would fit well at all for a commercial entity wanting to do fitness classes in public spaces,” said Davison. “So for us, without a request, we don’t even know there’s an interest.”
Elevate and other fitness companies will feel the sting from the cancellation of the popular classes, one of the only revenue streams left to those businesses.
“This was one of the only solutions and at least we could provide services for the members and get them outside, let them exercise, stay healthy, and meet up with some friends in a safe way, keeping their distance and keeping the numbers down,” said Calvin.
According to van der Ham, their investment over the past year has been significant, with the purchase of Silver City CrossFit building in downtown Trail in 2020.
“Small businesses carry a lot of risk and it does not take much to simply shut the doors permanently – which we struggle to see how this benefits any municipality,” he said.
“A thriving business scene should be high on the city’s priorities list. While we do not intend to bend the rules or go against laws in place, we are always learning and apologize for unknowingly going against city bylaws.”
Davison says there are options, but consulting with the city to determine what those are is the first step.
When restrictions allow, fitness groups can approach the city and request a bylaw change to determine an equitable rate for the space, submit a COVID plan, have insurance and follow rules and regulations of the permitted area.
Waiving the fee is unlikely, however, an agreement similar to the one the city came up with for installing restaurant patios in parking spots is more suitable.
“It will probably look comparable for businesses who have occupied parking stalls in the downtown area,” said Davison. “The fees are not waived and there’s a monthly permit fee to have a patio occupying parking stalls in the downtown core, so it would probably look similar.”
The idea to have outside workouts seemed simple enough, and may have flown under the radar at any other time.
But during times of COVID, nothing is simple.
“We had no idea,” said Calvin. “We were pretty caught off guard. We don’t really know where to go from here.
“We just feel there’s been a lot of road blocks put up, rather than people taking the opportunity to try and help.”
Yet, their is hope on the horizon.
Since the original notification, Elevate received a positive response from city on Monday.
“It was a good response, and they (parks department) are going to be discussing things with council I believe,” said van der Ham. “I hope it’ll be a good outcome.
“The main problem I have is that these restrictions are affecting our business and a couple of other businesses that rely on group-setting services.”
Like the restaurants, he says fitness businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“Yet there is very little we can do to keep providing services, unless we go outside,” van der Ham said.
“So I’m hopeful! Dialogue has been started with the city and maybe this will be the beginning of something really cool moving forward.”